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Thread: Vaseline + O2 = boom?

  1. #1
    Senior Member bulrush's Avatar
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    Default Vaseline + O2 = boom?

    While reading a medical log, a nurse talks about putting nice smelling chapstick (containing vaseline, made from petroleum) on the inside of an oxygen face mask, to make it more tolerable to children. Another person comments that vaseline, when combined with pure oxygen, can ignite explosively.

    So I'm asking you metal workers out there with an O2 tank, is this possible? Can you make it happen in an experiment? Will chapstick, or petroleum jelly, ignite in the presence of oxygen in a sealed metal can without the use of an open flame or spark? (A glass or plastic container is probably not a good idea.)

    Please report back here.


  2. #2
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bulrush View Post
    While reading a medical log, a nurse talks about putting nice smelling chapstick (containing vaseline, made from petroleum) on the inside of an oxygen face mask, to make it more tolerable to children. Another person comments that vaseline, when combined with pure oxygen, can ignite explosively.

    So I'm asking you metal workers out there with an O2 tank, is this possible? Can you make it happen in an experiment? Will chapstick, or petroleum jelly, ignite in the presence of oxygen in a sealed metal can without the use of an open flame or spark? (A glass or plastic container is probably not a good idea.)

    Please report back here.
    I'm not a metal worker, but have trained in this area for submarine systems. To directly answer your question - no - at least not in the scenario that you describe. However, if any petrolium product is introduced into a high pressure oxygen (or air) system it will create an affect called diesel effect, and yes - it is extremely explosive.
    Last edited by crashdive123; 02-18-2009 at 04:55 PM.
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    Coming through klkak's Avatar
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    If someone were to try this experiment there would likely be no reporting back.
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    Crash is right if you fill up say a liter soda bottle with Vaseline and hook an O-2 hose to it and pump that bottle full of O-2 nothing but the bottle bursting will occur, But put a petroleum product inside the gage or hose of a O-2 bottle and you got a KABOOM.
    I Wonder Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink what ever comes out?"

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    Crazy Coonass catfish10101's Avatar
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    Being a firefighter, and a medical first responder, this is very interesting to me. I am going to have to do more research on this. Thanks for posting!!!
    If anyone knows where I can find more info on this, please let me know.

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    Wolverine RunsWithDeer's Avatar
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    I think you would need some sort of ignition source for an explosion to take place.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RunsWithDeer View Post
    I think you would need some sort of ignition source for an explosion to take place.
    This is true. When you have a sudden pressurization there is a great deal of heat produced, which in conjunction with the petrolium product and O2 source creates an explosion. There is no danger in to scenario that Bulrush described (vaseline inside an O2 mask).
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  8. #8

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    I do not know the name of the book( been too many years) that I had in High school for welding class. But it has a brief description of what happens , best i can recall is the petroleum based product, ( oil, wd 40, grease, etc) if introduced into the 02 system at a point it can build up friction and heat it will blow up.
    Now speaking from experience I know that a torch head that has oil on it will not blow when the 02 is turned on , but when the acetylene and spark is introduced it will back pressure and blow the seals out of a torch.
    So my understanding in petroleum based products exploding is it needs enough room to get hot from friction before it goes boom.
    I Wonder Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink what ever comes out?"

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    Coming through klkak's Avatar
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    Default Here Is An Article

    Dispelling the Petroleum Jelly Myth
    ISSN: 0002-936X
    Accession: 00000446-199811000-00018
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    ≪ Table of Contents
    About this Journal ≫Author(s): Winslow, Elizabeth H. PhD, RN, FAAN; Jacobson, Ann F. PhD, RN

    Issue: Volume 98(11), November 1998, p 16RR
    Publication Type: [Research for Practice]
    Publisher: 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
    Institution(s): Elizabeth H. Winslow is a research consultant for the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, TX. Ann F. Jacobson is an assistant professor at Kent State University School of Nursing, Kent, OH.

    Table of Contents:
    ≪ The Essential Role of Pastoral Care: A Clinician's Perspective.
    ≫ PATIENT PROTECTIONS.
    Links
    Complete ReferenceRecently, a hospital with which I have been associated removed petroleum jelly from the patient-care units to prevent its use on patients receiving oxygen. The ban was based on the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) 1996 edition of its Standard for Health Care Facilities, which states, "Oil, grease, or other flammable contaminants shall not be used with oxygen equipment" (item 8-6.2.2.2), and "Flammable and combustible liquids shall not be permitted within the site of intentional expulsion" (item 8-6.2.2.3). The hospital's administration inferred that petroleum jelly presented a fire hazard. Ironically, no ban was placed on petroleum-based products such as antibiotic ointments, petroleum jelly gauze, and hand or body lotion, which are commonly used in caring for patients receiving oxygen. No problems had been reported with these products.

    Many nurses on staff were bewildered and concerned about the ban. They had used petroleum jelly for years to lubricate, soothe, and protect skin and mucous membranes. In many nurses' experiences, water-soluble products, which were permitted, were not effective moisturizers. Staff nurses took their concern about the "petroleum jelly prohibition" to the nursing research committee, enlisting their help in validating or refuting the scientific basis of the ban.

    The newly formed committee, whose primary goal was to promote evidence-based practice, completed an exhaustive literature search. This provided no evidence of problems associated with using petroleum jelly for patients, whether they were receiving oxygen or not. At one committee meeting, attempts to ignite a glob of petroleum jelly were unsuccessful-the petroleum jelly simply melted into a large puddle. An Internet inquiry and phone calls to staff nurses working at hospitals in the area and across the nation generated a long list of hospitals with no restriction on petroleum jelly use and a short list of hospitals who were queried had ever heard of an adverse incident caused by petroleum jelly. An informal phone survey to nationally recognized nurses produced similar responses. For example, Marianne Chulay, DNSc, RN, FAAN, past-president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and Cathie Guzzetta, PhD, RN, FAAN, author of several books on the nursing care of critically ill patients, both used petroleum jelly for patient care and neither had ever encountered or heard of a problem with it. The physician chair of the NFPA Technical Committee on Gas Delivery Equipment offered his personal interpretation of items 8-6.2.2.2 and 8-6.2.2.3. He construed 8-6.2.2.2 as referring to oxygen equipment hardware, such as valves and regulators, and 8-6.2.2.3 as literally pertaining to liquids only (personal communication, December 10, 1996). He cautioned, however, that his opinion should not be considered an official commentary.

    Despite the above evidence, safety committee and risk management personnel were reluctant to allow petroleum jelly for patients receiving oxygen. The hospital safety manager requested assistance from an independent physician researcher to resolve the issue. The researcher noted that petroleum jelly "is neither a contaminant nor a liquid" and urged that "the present uses of petroleum jelly, with its many solidly demonstrated benefits to patients, be continued without restriction until such time as solid scientific evidence becomes extant which would indicate a potential hazard to patients, staff, or premises" (memorandum from Ivan Danhof, December 5, 1996). Finally, the ban was lifted.

    At the most recent meeting of the NFPA Technical Committee on Gas Delivery
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  10. #10

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    Great reference info.
    I Wonder Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink what ever comes out?"

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by crashdive123 View Post
    This is true. When you have a sudden pressurization there is a great deal of heat produced, which in conjunction with the petrolium product and O2 source creates an explosion. There is no danger in to scenario that Bulrush described (vaseline inside an O2 mask).
    When I was in medic school this same thing was said to me. We were warned to not have any diesel or other petroleum based fluids on our hands when changing valves, etc on oxygen tanks.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Senior Member bulrush's Avatar
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    Aha! So caution must be used when changing valves on O2 tanks, but it is ok to smear a little chapstick inside an o2 mask at the hospital. Thanks klkak!

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